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Elizabeth Warren falls for Trump's strategy

On the first day of her unofficial presidential campaign, Sen. Elizabeth Warren showed exactly why President...

Posted: Oct 17, 2018 12:21 AM
Updated: Oct 17, 2018 12:21 AM

On the first day of her unofficial presidential campaign, Sen. Elizabeth Warren showed exactly why President Trump is such a powerful political opponent. Unlike most other presidents in recent decades, he has the capacity to set the terms of debate and to bring his adversaries into conversations they never intended to have.

Warren released a video that is in many ways extremely compelling. Drawing on Jimmy Carter's famous biographical campaign film in 1976 that helped to distinguish him based on his upbringing, Warren reveals to Americans how she is a genuine product of the "ragged edge of the middle class" that struggles every day to make ends meet in middle America.

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If the question of the 2020 presidential campaign ends up coming down to which candidate has a better understanding for the hopes, struggles and pains of average Americans, the video effectively suggests, it would be Warren as opposed to a President whose wealth was inherited and whose financial success came from shady tax practices. In the video, Warren also hits hard at the kind of racism that has influenced many of Trump's attacks, standing as a defender for Native Americans who have become the victims of the "blood sport" of politics.

But the video also plays into the President's hands by literally being framed around Trump. It starts with President Trump throwing out his "Pocahontas" insult to adoring crowds. After turning back to her family background and struggles for a bit, the video returns to Trump's suggestion that she lied about her heritage to advance her academic career.

We learn about a DNA test that proves there are Native Americans in her family background, however distant. Warren tries to make the case based on expertise. Trump offers insults; Warren, a former Harvard University professor, offers data.

The dangers of this strategy for Democrats became clear within hours. Instantly, the news cycle turned to debates about the DNA test. In predictable fashion, the rest of her message quickly faded away in the frenzy of news analysis. The upshot: Warren, one of the most intelligent and capable senators to have served in the upper chamber for decades, finds herself trapped in a Trumpian debate that has little relevance to the nation's future. Trump mastered this strategy years ago when he was a key figure in the birther movement that consumed much too much of the nation's energy on the phony issue of whether President Obama was really a US citizen.

As a candidate and President, Trump has continually done this to his opponents. During the 2016 primaries, Republicans were forced to contend with the nicknames Trump gave them on the campaign trail. Hillary Clinton was swamped in a campaign that revolved around her emails, a minor issue that Trump exploited.

Every opponent since he took office has been forced to contend with the conversation topics he put forth: for example, the Democratic candidates in 2018 who suddenly find themselves using the final weeks of a historic campaign to talk about whether they are an unruly extremist mob.

Moreover, Warren's response is based on an assumption that evidence matters in these battles with Trump. President Trump has minimal interest in what the data says about almost any issue. He believes his "gut" is usually right and is usually able to find some fringe voice ("people say") to support his most outlandish claims.

Trump's political method is to repeat his messages endlessly regardless of what the facts show. Once he starts a conversation, he understands they are difficult to control and there is a 24-hour, instantaneous news cycle where information reaches the public before it is checked and verified.

Even after Obama produced his birth certificate, which Trump pointed to as a victory, he didn't stop from asking questions about the former president's origins. On a wide range of issues, from "voter fraud" to climate change, President Trump is never influenced by the data. When his opponents engage his debates by producing mountains of evidence to dispute his claims, he only uses their response to fuel the conversation in a way that does not serve their purpose.

In this case, Warren's response has not been helped by the fact that some liberals as well as a Native American organization have taken issue with the way she wants to claim this as part of her identity. By entering the debate, she unnecessarily opened herself up to these challenges.

Warren certainly has the capacity to shape a campaign around vital issues that she has played a major role in promoting — middle class insecurity, income inequality, consumer protection, gender equity and more. There is no need for her to relegate herself to what the President wants to discuss — or, more importantly, tweet about.

Any Democrat or Republican who hopes to seriously challenge President Trump in 2020 will have to be capable and willing to shape the national debate on their own terms rather than on those of President Trump. If they don't, President Trump, a master storyteller, can twist his opponents into knots as they dive deeper and deeper into a political abyss.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 450762

Reported Deaths: 6079
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin935111486
Ramsey40220742
Dakota33243348
Anoka31118366
Washington20282231
Stearns17957188
St. Louis13777244
Scott1203597
Wright11688106
Olmsted1062075
Sherburne823966
Carver698338
Clay654681
Rice613969
Kandiyohi555772
Blue Earth544833
Crow Wing486877
Otter Tail459367
Chisago455036
Benton421587
Winona391948
Douglas376666
Nobles372446
Mower369429
Goodhue351259
Polk330059
McLeod326546
Beltrami313248
Morrison312945
Lyon303338
Becker286939
Itasca285943
Isanti283241
Carlton282243
Steele275810
Pine267814
Freeborn249523
Todd232530
Nicollet226437
Brown215834
Mille Lacs214745
Le Sueur211716
Cass208424
Meeker200633
Waseca190716
Wabasha17293
Martin171326
Roseau166117
Hubbard149938
Redwood140627
Houston139014
Renville137840
Dodge13624
Chippewa131732
Cottonwood127818
Fillmore12535
Wadena120417
Rock110612
Sibley10897
Aitkin108533
Faribault107416
Watonwan10678
Pennington100315
Kanabec98018
Pipestone95523
Yellow Medicine93916
Murray8995
Jackson86310
Swift83818
Pope7425
Marshall70315
Stevens7038
Clearwater68614
Lac qui Parle65716
Lake65615
Wilkin6299
Koochiching59910
Lincoln4892
Big Stone4663
Unassigned43968
Grant4298
Norman4248
Mahnomen4137
Kittson37220
Red Lake3184
Traverse2553
Lake of the Woods1951
Cook1150

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 308737

Reported Deaths: 4391
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk46313460
Linn17916278
Scott15694167
Black Hawk13964242
Woodbury13064179
Johnson1220051
Dubuque11504157
Pottawattamie9086114
Dallas901872
Story875536
Webster470677
Cerro Gordo469972
Sioux458757
Clinton455065
Warren452039
Marshall429262
Buena Vista395230
Muscatine393078
Des Moines389243
Plymouth352269
Wapello347598
Jasper328559
Lee321132
Marion307252
Jones272949
Henry265831
Carroll257434
Bremer248048
Crawford233124
Washington221333
Boone221017
Benton210950
Mahaska196337
Jackson193931
Tama189559
Dickinson188129
Kossuth177744
Delaware174736
Clay170721
Wright166024
Fayette164123
Buchanan161023
Hamilton161030
Winneshiek159120
Harrison157362
Hardin156130
Cedar154419
Clayton153049
Butler149824
Page145415
Floyd140536
Cherokee139527
Mills138016
Lyon137033
Poweshiek134124
Hancock130824
Allamakee130029
Iowa126722
Calhoun12309
Grundy121927
Jefferson121625
Madison12169
Winnebago120829
Mitchell116436
Louisa115530
Cass114743
Chickasaw113312
Appanoose111540
Emmet111232
Sac111215
Union110223
Humboldt105819
Shelby104027
Guthrie103624
Franklin103118
Unassigned10000
Palo Alto91411
Montgomery87224
Keokuk85826
Howard84819
Monroe81419
Clarke8017
Pocahontas77811
Ida75430
Davis69721
Greene6977
Adair69320
Lucas6619
Monona65017
Osceola64510
Worth6154
Taylor5969
Fremont5206
Van Buren49914
Decatur4944
Ringgold44611
Audubon4188
Wayne41721
Adams2983
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